From churches to schools, glass houses to stables and many others, some of Glasgow’s buildings are in a bad way and are in danger of being lost forever. But they have their champions. Four people who are battling to save buildings they love tell the stories of a few of Glasgow’s threatened architectural gems: the fight is on to save them before it’s too late.

Building: Springburn Winter Gardens

Champion: Paul Sweeney, former MP for Glasgow North East

I grew up around there and to me the Winter Gardens has only ever been a wreck. I used to think it look like a crashed airship, like the Hindenburg or something. It was one of the biggest glasshouses of its kind in Scotland when it was built in 1900 and it took a lot to maintain.

The building was funded by the Reid family, the locomotive magnates in Springburn, and there was a generation that came into the area in the 1860s and 70s on the back of the industry. There was massive wealth here – you had Lawrence of Arabia visiting with the King of Iraq. The Reids had their mansion near the winter gardens and gifted the park to the community.

I remember when I was in primary school, I got a book about the area and I went through it with my granddad and the thing that struck me was that everything was blitzed before I was born. You think: what the hell were they thinking? So, growing up, I was frustrated. This was a community I was proud to be a part of and had a great proud heritage and it had just been systematically screwed by forces that were outwith its control and I had an emotional reaction to that: I want to make this stop. Why do we tolerate it? Can people not see the opportunity?

What happened to the Winter Gardens is that there was decay in the building by the 1980s and there was no funding at the time to fix it. Glasgow was in dire straits. The city was drained of funds and there was a huge contraction in the council’s abilities to provide amenities, so the Winter Gardens was sadly something that fell off the radar. All the glass panels in the roof had started to slip. There was no one to go around and check them.

The impetus for starting the Springburn Winter Gardens Trust to try to save the building was the sudden demolition of the public halls in Springburn in 2012 – they are currently building new flats on the site. The demolition was another disaster for an area that’s had body blow after body blow. A lot of industry collapsed in the 60s and, by 1964, the first development started and new high-rise flats were built. It was seen as progress, but by 1973, there was another phase of development and that obliterated the central part of Springburn to drive a massive expressway through the community; 85 per cent of the buildings in the area were demolished. There was a drain of people, wealth and activity from the area. It was pummelled. It was war-like.

One of the big problems when I started the Winter Gardens Trust in 2013 was that there was a profound lack of agency in the community – there just didn’t seem to be any real local organisational impetus. In the west end, you would have a lot of highly connected people who would phone their MP or a solicitor with press contacts and you can start to kick up a stink about something you don’t like. This community doesn’t necessarily have the same capacity. That probably left it less able to fight its corner.

The plan we have now for the Winter Gardens is a renovation to include a main hall, a public square, a cafe, flexible working areas, and perhaps a woodland nursery. What we’re trying to come up with is a scheme that would minimise the ongoing maintenance costs. The idea is that, although it’s an A-listed building, the choice is its collapse or its inventive reconstruction. We’re trying to make an enlightened argument and use modern building technologies, including alternatives to the traditional glass, which would make it more resilient.

The stage we’re at now is the concept, which is the result of hundreds of hours of work by volunteers in their spare time. The council own the building and we have a letter of comfort from them that says they will be happy to transfer the asset to the trust when the time is right and we would be the custodians of it. We just need to get all that sorted but we’re quite well advanced.

The business case for the building is strong. There would be income from the café, and we would rent it out for a nursery. You would also have a programme manager who would book it up for events, festivals and concerts. It’s a bit of a bet about how much demand there will be, but I’m feeling the vibes. Part of the project is about the repopulation of Springburn – can we get more people here? How do you draw people into Springburn? We need the capital grants to get it up and running but there’s a sustainable model that can wash its own face. It could be teeming with activity with the right entrepreneurial approach. Springburn has never had a cut of the cake at all, so let’s get in there to get some cash to get it up and running.

Building: Southern Necropolis Gatehouse, Gorbals

Champion: Colin Mackie, nursery teacher

I went to school in the Gorbals and have had a passion for this building for over 30 years. It was built in 1848 and was designed by Charles Wilson, who’s famous for designing Park Circus and is buried in the cemetery. There are many other famous people buried here too, including Greek Thomson, but one of the reasons people wanted to come into the cemetery was you could buy a lair and pay it up for 6p a week – it was affordable.

The owners would take people up on to the roof of the gatehouse and show them where they would be buried. So there was no class distinction in the cemetery; there are mill workers and bankers in here, colliery workers and millionaires.

The gatehouse is a beautiful building and was in active use up until the 1950s. I’ve heard lots of stories from local people who remember being chased away by the gardener who used the building. There was a room on one side for the gardeners and the gravediggers and on the other side there was a spiral staircase – although there’s hardly anything left of it now – that would take you up to a committee room for the guys who ran the cemetery.

There was also a bell on the building – it would have been rung at 8.15pm and at 8.30 the gates were locked so if you weren’t out by then, you were staying the night basically. And there were originally cast-iron gates, but they went in the First or Second World Wars.

The building has had a long life but there has been damage. A few years ago, after years of traffic going by on Caledonia Road, part of the window came away and it’s now been reinforced. There are also still bits coming off because of the weather. It’s effectively been left. When it rains badly, the roof tends to hold water, which is not good for it, and every year that goes by, we are losing a wee bit more of it. Every year that goes by, the gatehouse is getting worse and every time there’s a big rainfall, I sit at home and worry about it.

The Friends of Southern Necropolis have been looking after the building since 2010 and we have so many great ideas for it. If we had the building up and running, we could bring people in for tours of the cemetery. Another idea would be to turn it into a heritage centre for local schools and weddings might also be an option. About three years ago we were shortlisted by the Prince’s Trust and we’ve tried crowd-funding as well but the first thing we need to do is patch up the roof, which would cost £12,000 and the total cost of renovation would be about £1.5m.

It’s an emergency situation and we could lose the building in less than 10 years. If the roof collapses, God forbid, it might be condemned as a dangerous building and it would be pulled down.

People use the word regeneration and they assume it means pulling down the old and building new, but regeneration also means regenerating the past while also preserving it. There aren’t very many old buildings in the Gorbals. There used to be tenements that ran right along Caledonia Road and the old buildings that are still here are fighting to survive. To lose the gatehouse as well doesn’t even bear thinking about. I’m up for progress but you can’t just start binning the past.

Building: Pollok Stables, Pollok Park

Champion: Fiona Sinclair, architect

I get frustrated when buildings are lost that could have been saved and Pollok Stables is an example of a building that has more to give – its life is not over. Also, while we’ve been in lockdown, a lot of people’s eyes have been opened to the architecture in their local area because they’ve been walking around and there are fewer cars and they can wander around and look up. A lot of people are looking afresh at their own communities.

The story goes that were as many as three castles in Pollok Park and it’s generally accepted that there are remnants of one of the castles built into the stables.

When Pollok House was built between 1750 and 1752, the stables were used by the gardeners and ultimately, the complex would have had horses, a dairy, and various staff members. The park’s famous heavy horses were also kept here until fairly recently.

Sadly, the building became dangerous to use after the flooding from the River Cart and I’m very concerned about it. The council began to have to prop up parts of it but it got to the point where there was concern about the entrance itself and the deterioration can happen very quickly if a building isn’t heated or there’s a leak and nobody’s there to spot it.

The council has kept a watch on the stables, but they have massive responsibilities across the city. It’s easy enough if a building is generating income – then you can justify putting some of that income back in to the building but as soon as you have an empty building, you have a problem.

The thing about Pollok Stables is that there is a massive amount of public support but it’s all about coming up with a sustainable plan. Most people felt that a mixed use was the best option – residential, commercial, a few studios, another café maybe. There is also a little turbine station – there was a sawmill in there and there are plans to bring that back into use.

Coming up with plans is only part of the story though because you need a business plan – nowadays, securing funding for the restoration of historic buildings is about how safe the investment will be.

The stables is a listed building so there are avenues for historic building repairs but a lot of different organisations will be involved.

Some organisations will pledge money on the basis that the rest of the money is raised. The most important thing is to have a credible business plan.

I am confident that we can save the stables but it has deteriorated very fast over the last year. The difficulty we have in the west of Scotland is the amount of rain and rain is the biggest enemy of an old building. The state of the building is an emergency.

Budget cuts also make it trickier but there’s the will at the local authority, they know how important it is. It’s of massive archaeological importance and we mustn’t lose yet another historic building. It’s a building with tremendous potential.

Building: Sir John Maxwell School, Pollokshaws

Champion: Douglas McCreath, former assistant college principal

The Pollokshaws area of Glasgow has suffered a double whammy over the years. In the 1960s, the old rundown housing stock was replaced by high flats and the existing community was decimated and that was bad enough but some 50 years later, the high flats themselves are demolished which had another devastating impact on the community. And the people who live here care about buildings like Sir John Maxwell School.

The school is named after Sir John Maxwell, who was the laird of the manor and whose family owned much of the land that the south side of Glasgow was built on. They paid for the school to be built in 1909. It closed in 2011 as part of the overall development of the education estate of the council and pupils moving into more modern schools.

I care about the school because the traditions and buildings and bricks and mortar are part of the cultural heritage. Over the years, Pollokshaws has lost a lot of its buildings, including the swimming baths where I used to take my children.

The buildings in our area are important, but it’s not just the buildings, it’s the way they open insights into our heritage and history.

Whatever the architectural merits of the Sir John Maxwell School, it provides a way of looking back at to the past and the way things were. And if we don’t know where we’ve come from, there’s little prospect that we’ll make a good job of our journey forward.

We now have a campaign group that has more than 200 supporters and our efforts to save the school has gathered momentum in recent years, hastened by the visible decay of the building.

It doesn’t take long and it’s at greater risk if it’s not being used. There’s also been vandalism – the lead has been stripped off the roof and the skylights were taken away.

We’ve had clean-up events and we’ve let the community know that somebody cares about the building.

The school is a potential way of engaging the community and allow it to celebrate its cultural heritage.

One idea we have for the school is that it could be a centre for businesses and the people in the community to hold exhibitions and so on and I’m optimistic about that, but I’m realistic as well.

People who used to live in Pollokshaws have a great fondness for the area and our argument is that the community is more than the people who live there now – there’s a kind of diaspora if you like who care about the area and have a concern for it.

And you never know: there might be a millionaire out there from Pollokshaws who might be able to support us!